We’ll take a visit out to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park on the afternoon of Thursday April 7th. I’ve made these pictures a little wider than usual. If you have a strong opinion about whether that’s better/worse/the same, feel free to chime in in the comments section. I think this might actually be too big and my poor readers have to scroll more to see my HILARIOUS and WITTY commentary.
As previously reported, Rivers of Light, which was originally supposed to be in previews this week, has been delayed indefinitely due to technical difficulties. The theater/stadium/whatever we are calling it is complete and most of the walls around it are down. But the show uses a lot of new technologies that don’t seem to be agreeing with each other. There is a massive media event next week and rehearsals have been going on nightly as late as 4am, 5am, and 6am to try and prepare something to show them. This is not a planned delay nor does it have anything to do with budgets. It’s solely because the show cannot be performed safely.
I have heard conflicting reports on whether the script is also being retooled. The show is as strange as it is visually impressive.
I give Disney a lot of credit for not sending Rapunzel out there with the lanterns or Pocahontas with all the colors of the wind, but it’s hard to imagine whoever wrote the thing didn’t spend a considerable amount of time holed up in Colorado saying, “Yeah man…” to a wall.
Unfortunately, no Rivers of Light means no other nighttime enhancements until the show is ready. Disney said to expect an announcement in late May, which doesn’t seem to bode all that well.
These partial views are sort of useless compared to some of the aerial shots I’ve seen recently, which better capture the massive size of everything. Check those out here: http://wdwnt.com/blog/2016/04/photos-video-aerial-view-of-construction-progress-on-pandora-the-world-of-avatar-at-animal-kingdom/ and here: https://twitter.com/MickeyXtreme/status/720680319301472256.
Not quite as breaking.
Cameron announced that he is going to make something like 30 Avatar sequels just the other day. The thing about Avatar, and it’s something that I think I’ve mentioned before, is that the movie was a fantastically immersive, beautiful film in theaters. But it’s virtually unwatchable on TV. People criticize the story, but I think Cameron made the decision that he didn’t want the story to get in the way of the experience. You’re too busy thinking “Wow” to follow a Charlie Kaufman screenplay. But we will see.
Here we are from Everest.
I was most excited to finally see the walls come down around the Rivers of Light theater construction on the Asia side, restoring this view for the first time since February of last year.
Animal Kingdom has seen a lot of walls come and go over the last two years. Africa is arguably the best themed land on property I think.
With Rivers of Light at least out from walls, that should mean this wall in front of Tiffins should be about it. There would still be a wall in New Harambe down past the theater where the bathrooms are. A few more from around Discovery Island Lagoon, keeping in mind that these pictures are about ten days old now. I should be back Thursday for some fresh shots. Unfortunately, they only let me out of the asylum once per week these days after taking “too many pictures of chicken drumsticks (allegedly)” and “barking at children:”
These floating lanterns, which there will be more than 100 of, look small on the water.
A human is not quite as useful as a banana for scale, but I think they’re larger than they appear at first blush. Just about everything on the water should be.
People have actually been arguing over whether these things, which look like they would be right at home on the heads of the aliens from Mars Attacks, are lights or some kind of projectors.
If we all pitch in to buy a few lights maybe we can open a rival show first: http://tempest.org/.
Wider: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports13/really_risking_my_license_to_panorama_here.jpg (you may need to click it to expand it again)
Do you see 2,500 people sitting here?
All in all, Disney did an admirable job installing the theater seating I think. It blends in with with Everest’s waterfront as well as you could hope.
When I saw that Flights of Wonder was going to be closing for roof installation, I was not expecting anything quite this monolithic.
The show ended up reopening a few weeks later than initially expected and has been running a reduced number of shows since this past Wednesday. They were not sure that they were going to be able to get some of the birds down from the rafters. The usual schedule is expected to resume Sunday April 17th moving forward with shows beginning at 10:45am, 11:45am, 12:45pm, 2:45pm, and 3:45pm. Hopefully Disney is otherwise going to do something about this facade. It’s currently a 0/10. I’m sure they are.
While there are no FP+ scanners visible, the show is still listed as a FastPass+ opportunity so it may return to the “temporary” setup that it used prior. More about using FP+ here and at It’s Tough To Be A Bug, among other things, in this post: https://www.easywdw.com/easy/blog/christmas-in-harambe-flights-of-wonder-fastpass-its-tough-to-be-a-bug-fastpass-and-primeval-whirl-reopens/.
What is a pretty substantial clearing on the back side of the Tree of Life continues.
I am not sure what they are up to back here – all of the netting that had gone up to protect guests from falling limbs is gone, which made me think that perhaps they had figured out how to strengthen the tree while doing other work.
There were a number of problems on the electrical front that caused Flame Tree’s closure to be extended a couple of months last year.
It seems unlikely that Disney would have any interest in expanding the viewing area for the nighttime projections on the Tree of Life on the back side – that was the purpose of expanding the area in front.
I guess I lied about the walls – there are still a couple up at the entrances to the various Discovery Island Trails.
If you would like a closer look, I suggest walking the It’s Tough To Be A Bug queue. There’s an area just a few steps inside the queue and off to the left where you can stop and take a look:
It’s not quite as fun as walking around and counting as many of the 300+ animals carved into the trunk as possible, but it’s a start.
And speaking of Flame Tree’s delay and lies about how many walls are still up, Disney is just now completing the roof work that was supposed to be done more than a year ago.
That means a wall around the exterior of most of Flame Tree’s seating section, but most seating areas remain open. Just one or two should be closed at a time as roofs are installed between them.
With the refurbishment of Disney Outfitters concluding, everything is really coming together.
You might notice that the bright pink sign doesn’t quite fit the current aesthetic.
That’s because this store is set to be renamed “Discovery Trading Company.” Maybe the sign got lost along with the souvenir cups for Skipper Canteen. And Jock Lindsey’s. And Liberty Tree Tavern. And Trader Sam’s. Maybe stop marking boxes “souvenir glasses.”
Inside remains gorgeous.
Moving forward, this should be where you find most of the higher-end items, while Riverside Depot next door stocks the more generic mid-range stuff.
There is still Island Mercantile across the way of course.
If memory serves, Kali River Rapids was supposed to close for a couple of weeks at the end of January and reopen on February 12th. That reopening ended up getting delayed to mid-March.
The free storage lockers have always been your friend since they were installed a couple of years ago.
They are free for as long as you should need one and they have two sizes. You’ll be asked to enter a pin to reopen the locker and then assigned one to use.
You’re welcome to use more than one of course, but I had no trouble fitting my backpack, camera, etc. inside. If you’re hauling something unwieldy around you might have a problem though.
I have to apologize on the quality of the pictures as I still use the Zack Morris phone. Anyway, I bring up the lockers situation because the compartment in the center of the raft is no longer really there. It is physically still there in the middle, but it’s not covered at all. I’m guessing a few too many people assumed it was waterproof or something and had electronics or other items ruined. Or it would have cost a few thousand dollars to replace the fabric and we have lockers so. You definitely want to put everything that you don’t want getting soaked in that locker.
Otherwise, I am not an expert on this ride whatsoever and really can’t tell you what should be working or no longer is, but the vast majority of effects are still either turned off or under-performing. This should be a very mysterious, mist-filled lift.
As temperatures rise headed into the summer, so will wait times as more and more guests are interested in riding. This is my favorite use of FastPass+ in the Park because it lets you decide when you want to ride with a relatively short wait – sometime after lunch might make sense so you’re not all soggy for Tusker House pictures and it’s late enough in the day that everyone is too hot and drying off will be quick. While Kali is a smooth jaunt through the desert compared to Bluto’s Barges at Universal, you will disembark your raft somewhere between damp and drenched to the bone. Extra socks may be a good choice. Waits are otherwise reliably short in the first hour and typically drop in the last hour. With the extended hours once Rivers of Light comes online(???), wait times may in turn drop and FastPass+ availability may increase. It just depends on how many people Disney is capable of keeping around.
Otherwise, my wait with FastPass+ at 6:22pm was basically just the time it took to walk the under-appreciated queue. They didn’t bother scanning my FastPass+ as nobody was waiting in standby with a 10-minute posted wait. The wait had peaked at 90 minutes earlier in the afternoon. While waits don’t drop off as much here in the late afternoon as they once did, it’s still your best chance outside of the early morning to experience shorter waits than the bulk of the afternoon.
I also rode Expedition Everest with FastPass+ earlier in the day. I was interested if capacity reductions would cause longer FastPass+ waits. Here at 3:55pm, the posted wait is 50 minutes and the FastPass+ queue is extended outside the entrance.
Waiting a little longer does afford the opportunity to enjoy some of the details in the queue. Everest is one of Disney’s best. #ThisIsAPositiveBlog.
Another example of a potential StoryMaker addition here in the queue just before boarding your vehicle. These interactive screens can theoretically display other images or text or what have you as Disney pinpoints your exact location as you pass through via your MagicBand.
So with the 50-minute standby wait and the FP+ return queue that appears to be backed up outside, I ended up waiting 12 minutes. That’s six or seven minutes longer than usual. But if 70% of capacity is given to FP+ and 5% to Disability Assistance Cards and single rider, then a 12.5-minute wait is what you would expect. It would be interesting to compare actual FP+ waits as a percentage of the posted standby wait. Of course, posted standby waits are often inaccurate and occasionally purposefully inaccurate, so it wouldn’t be all that telling. But maybe we’ll try anyway.
COMPLAINING ABOUT LOWERED CAPACITY, FEWER OPERATING HOURS, AND LONGER WAIT TIMES BEGINS HERE. CONTINUE AT YOUR PERIL
I always complain about Primeval Whirl because that is what Disney bloggers do – choose to do something and then complain about it. Or think about what it would probably be like to do something and then make up complaints about it that seem plausible. But there are two primary reasons why I opt in to Primeval. The first and most altruistic reason is to see how long the ride takes to experience, particularly in standby at different times of day but also with FastPass+ when standby waits are high. I could theoretically just watch somebody walk into the queue and then wait for them to exit, but that does lead us to our second reason: It’s hilarious to ride with people that have never been on it and have no idea their backs, necks, and shoulders are about to be slammed against a vehicle interior that hasn’t been re-padded since before the first iPhone announcement. And I can’t remember the last time I was on with someone that had ridden before because this is the theme park equivalent of Kentucky Wildcats basketball. One and done. Is Primeval Whirl probably going to lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in future chiropractor visits? Assuredly, but life is about those precious moments we spend together as one planet. One people.
Primeval Whirl was running just one of its two sides, which effectively halves capacity and at a minimum doubles standby waits. If FastPass+ experiences are being distributed like both sides are operating, then standby would receive even less capacity.
But when the extended queue is filling and the posted wait is 50 minutes. For Primeval Whirl. I have a tough time defending the choice to operate at half capacity. Obviously if the actual standby wait was eight minutes, nobody would really be complaining about only one side operating.
I got in line at 3:26pm with just two FastPass+ returners in front of me before the merge point. As with every other FastPass+ attraction on property, the second set of FP+ readers is inactive despite a cast member stationed right on top of it. With so few people in front of me before merge, that either means few people are returning with FP+ or those that did are immediately sent around the corner to load. Considering the wait is 50 minutes, it’s probably more the latter.
And even with just two FP+ returners before merge, I still ended up waiting eight minutes to board with a total experience time of 15 minutes. So it doesn’t take a whole lot to figure out why standby is waiting 50+.
Here’s a look at Primeval Whirl wait times over the last month from regular Park opening and continuing through regular Park close.
By running at half capacity later into the morning and returning to half capacity earlier in the evening, you’ve got waits that take off earlier and stay high longer. When you have a 50-minute wait at 5pm and you’re operating at half capacity, the wait is obviously not going to nose dive headed into the last hour because there are still so many people in line. On the 7th, the day of my visit, the posted wait goes up from 50 minutes when I rode to a whopping 80-minutes at 6pm.
We’ll now look at 2015 wait times over the same time of year, keeping in mind that it is not an apples-to-apples comparison with Easter Sunday falling on different dates and spreading out crowds differently. But we still capture the majority of spring break crowds, in addition to the full week before and after Easter during both years. We could probably compare more attractions in March/April of last year and this year come May.
Here’s Primeval Whirl in 2015, again from regular Park opening through Regular Park close:
A few things should be immediately evident. In 2016, Animal Kingdom saw zero regular 8am opens and zero closes later than 7pm. In 2015, Animal Kingdom saw 16 regular 8am opens and stayed open after 7pm on 18 evenings. That’s more than half the time. In 2015, Animal Kingdom closed at 6:30pm or earlier on 11 dates. In 2016, that happened just three times.
So we have shorter hours in 2016 with higher attendance. Fewer operating hours + more people = longer waits. And then on top of all that, you’ve reduced capacity even further wherever possible by running just one side at attractions like Primeval Whirl, even when waits are 30…40…50…or 60 minutes long because of that very fact. So your overall average wait at Primeval Whirl is 45% higher in 2016 compared to 2015 with a minimal increase in attendance.
Maybe instead of dealing with this I should just start writing about cupcakes.
END COMPLAINING ABOUT LOWERED CAPACITY, FEWER OPERATING HOURS, AND LONGER WAIT TIMES BEGINS HERE. CONTINUE AT YOUR PERIL
Next up, we’ll stop by The Smiling Crocodile to try the Smoky Cheddar Grits and Chicken Drumstick, in addition to a variety of odds and ends and then take a walk through Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.